Joel Steinman, Esq.
Estate administration is the process of winding up someone’s financial affairs and essentially involves the gathering of their assets, paying off their debts, and distributing the remaining assets to those entitled to them. The process begins by “probating” the decedent’s will and having the Register of Wills appoint someone as “executor” of the estate. This person is given the authority and the duty to wind up the decedent’s affairs. The will generally indicates whom the decedent wished to serve as his executor. If there is no will, or if the will does not name an executor, upon request in the form of a petition, the Register will appoint someone to serve as administrator of the estate in accordance with a list of priority set by Pennsylvania law.
Once appointed, the executor or administrator must determine the assets of the estate, secure and value those assets, and file a list of the estate assets with the Register. He must also identify the decedent’s creditors and pay his debts, assuming the estate has enough money to do so. The executor or administrator must also send all appropriate notices and file and pay all appropriate state and federal inheritance, estate, and income taxes. Once this is done, the executor or administrator must distribute any remaining assets to the beneficiaries or heirs of the estate in accordance with the will, or, if none, the Pennsylvania intestate statute.